THE BAND MUSICAL
The Bristol Hippodrome
TUESDAY 17th – SATURDAY 28th April 2018
Last year my boys and I watched BBC’s “Let it Shine”, the TV talent show where young men competed for a coveted spot in a brand new musical featuring the music of Take That. Following it’s opening at Manchester Opera House on 8 September 2017, to critical and public acclaim, this week the UK & Ireland Tour of The Band Musical, came to Bristol. The nine year old and I skipped along to the Bristol Hippodrome (yes there was actual skipping) in eager anticipation of watching this new production.
THE BAND PLOT
Back in the 90s, sixteen year old Rachel and her four school-friends are obsessed by a boyband. They’re thrilled when a competition-win offers them the opportunity to see their heroes in action and one life-changing night they sneak off to the gig without telling their parents.
Fast forward 25 years when we’re reunited with the group of friends and we see how all their lives turned out dramatically differently to the ones they would have predicted for themselves. Now forty-something women, they try once more to fulfil their dream of meeting their heroes but of course things don’t turn out quite the way they expect.
THE BAND REVIEW
The Band showcases the music of Take That, performed by Five To Five, winners of the TV show. I’d mistakenly assumed that the story would focus on the boyband, but instead the female fans are put at centre stage with the band’s music providing the backing track to their lives.
The vibrant atmosphere and enthusiasm for the music throughout suggests that much of the theatre’s audience is made up of Take That fans from back in the day. Pitching the show at long-term fans, rather than wanna be pop stars would seem to be a wise commercial decision. The cast all give strong performances but the mature women steal the show and the audience reacts well to them. I’m amused at the hearty, spontaneous cheer overweight Claire receives when she announces she’s been “Two times slimmer of the week” (as if she really has)!
Rachel Lumberg’s performance as the adult Rachel stands out in particular. She’s funny and likeable but a part of her is missing because of the tragedy she’s experienced. I hadn’t expected the show to be such a tear-jerker but in true rollercoaster style the sadness is balanced with humour, rousing music and resolution as the women gradually become empowered.
After a powerful end to act one, I wondered if the performance had peaked too soon but the finale certainly didn’t disappoint!
THE BAND AGE SUITABILITY
I had mistakenly assumed that the story would focus on the band themselves and consequently thought my nine year old would be the perfect audience member. However the story revolves around a group of avid female fans of the boy-band who are sixteen at the start and forty something at the end. My son still found the show very entertaining however there’s some fairly strong language to be aware of including boll*cks, cr*p and f**k.
The music is great fun, emotional and catchy and works alongside the plot without feeling as though it’s been shoe-horned in. Along with the instrumentalists, AJ, Curtis, Sario, Nick and Yazdan perform it beautifully and look just as comfortable in their acting roles, whether they’re cleaners at the airport or stadium stars. Occasionally they take centre stage and we see them in full performance mode but much of the time they graciously step back and provide the soundtrack to the lives of their adoring fans.
I was pleased to find that I was familiar with pretty much all the music and that the nine year old knew some of the tracks too. As my son pinched my iphone and, along with at least 50% of the audience, waved it around in torch mode singing, “We can rule the World”, I felt that surge of emotion which live music can give you. We totally enjoyed The Band and I wish I’d had more tickets so my other sons could have experienced the performance too. If you fancy going, don’t hang around as, at the time of writing, tickets for Bristol are almost sold out.
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CAST AND CREDITS
THE BAND is directed by Kim Gavin and Jack Ryder, designed by Jon Bausor and choreographed by Kim Gavin, with lighting design by Patrick Woodroffe, video design by Luke Halls and sound design by Terry Jardine and Nick Lidster.
THE BAND is produced by David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers and Gary Barlow, Howard Donald, Mark Owen, Robbie Williams.
The musical stars Rachel Lumberg as Rachel, Alison Fitzjohn as Claire, Emily Joyce as Heather, Jayne McKenna as Zoe, AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Qafouri and Sario Solomon, collectively known as Five to Five.
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